How Dallas’s West End died…

Why did the West End Die?  – Wendy

I begin with the obligatory statement that the West End is not completely dead. There’s still some life there but definitely not what it was twenty years ago when Van Halen played a free concert that Bruce Willis MC’ed at Planet Hollywood (how 1989 is that sentence).

 van halenThere’s even a DVD of the show for you super Van Halen fans out there

Anyways the reason why the West End is almost completely dead is pretty simple once you understand a few simple aspects of urban life in American Cities.  But first a little history on the West End, don’t worry it’s not boring there are prostitutes, saddles and pillows involved.

e88725a45a73032005026ac88729d495This is the most PC version of a picture that involves two of the three topics from the previous sentence.

Most histories of the West End begin in the early 20th century when the West End was a center for warehousing and manufacturing along the railroad. For the most part this makes sense; most of the buildings that are still standing there were built around that time. There was a cracker factory (boring and unappetizing), a saddle factory (intriguing), and a pillow factory (kinda depressing when you realize your pillows are made in a factory).

crackerFrankly, that’s an awful lot of smoke to be coming from a “cracker” factory

Unfortunately this view of its history ignores West End before 1913 or so, which is even more interesting than a pillow or cracker factory.  Back then the area was known as “Frog’s Town.” Not because of a large population of Frenchmen, but because the area was prone to flooding and hence it had a very large population of frogs.  You know what else it had a large population of?

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That’s right  19th century prostitutes. Frog’s Town was one of a few so called red lights districts in Dallas.  Keep in mind that prostitution was legal in Dallas all the way up to 1913. When the state literally had to intervene and force Dallas enforce the state law(Austin always was so prude). If this comes as a little bit of a surprise keep in mind Dallas as a long history of providing outlets for carnal delights, and that Dallas was still very much of a frontiers town back then. One with 100,000 residents albeit, but one of those residents was Doc Holiday of the OK Corral fame, who ran a crooked dentist office and a straight card game.

doc

He’ll be your Huckleberry

Anyways fast forward some 60 years to the 1970’s and West End’s “revival as an entertainment district.” Downtown Dallas post WWII had expected a building boom. And because it was pretty much reigned in on all side by freeways, that building boom went vertical. The majority of Dallas’s skyscrapers were built at the expensive of many of the older mid-rise buildings or historical buildings which were torn down. By the 70’s many of those older historical structure were gone. Preservationist, fresh off victories along Swiss Ave and in Old East Dallas began pushing efforts to save the historic buildings in the West End.

imagesSaving these buildings

At the same time as the Preservationist efforts were taking hold, many civic leaders in Dallas were becoming aware of another problem. Retail, dining, entertainment and other so called built cultural amenities were fleeing downtown. This was in part because the new skyscrapers were replacing the venues for entertainment. But also because during the 60’s and 70’s Baby Boomers were fleeing urban areas and central cities.

runningThere’s a new mediocore subdivision in Plano?!?!?  Last one there gets shunned by the PTA and HOA leaders

That was the era of suburban shopping malls and chain restaurants. Many civic leaders in Dallas wanted to chase those fleeing suburbanites, compete with the suburban shopping mall and regain those tax dollars. A strategy that most urban planners nationwide and local civic leaders today find utterly foolish, but more on that later.

So as a result of the Preservationist efforts to stay the West End historical structures, and civic leader’s efforts to lure suburbanites back to downtown, the West End began to develop as a shopping, dining and entertainment district in the late 70’s. By the mid 80’s it had really taken off. The first and Original Spaghetti Warehouse had moved in along with other restaurants. Shops were popping up, the West End Marketplace (a mall) had openned and Club Stark had made quite the name for itself in nightlife circles.

imagesCAJ0GPERClub Stark in it’s hey day.

In a D Magazine in a 1984 story about the district the author even said that the West End was well on its way to becoming something the downtown really needed…”a place to visit in the heart of the city that offers a wide selection of food and drink.”

That above statement from D mag hints at something most people growing up in Dallas knew about the West End. The West End was a nice place…to…visit. It was a nice place to visit…means it was for tourists.

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Come to the West End for longhorns and cowboy hats.

Let me explain. If you go back and read, or at least thumb through the D mag article, you’ll notice that the author spends a lot of time talking about all the restaurants, some of the shopping, and she even mentions the pains to which businesses moving into the office space went through to project a different vibe then traditional downtown Dallas. The one thing she doesn’t mention until the very end is that no one actually lives in the West End. The West End was conceived to be a standalone entertainment district.

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The West End trying to be like Time Square in New York

Standalone entertainment districts in urban areas usually aren’t that successful.. Think of the most popular areas of Dallas right now for dining, shopping and “entertainment”. Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts, Greenville Ave, Uptown, Knox/Henderson, the Cedars; they all have residential communities in and around them. The West End didn’t and hence it lacked a certain urban excitement or bohemian feel that attracts people.

Segways1Any area that allows you to rent a seg-way to see it, is not an exciting urban area

The West End also tried to compete with suburban entertainment districts, which generally speaking were more favorable for suburbanites then the West End.

In the end, the West End, devoid of residents, an urban vibe, and struggling to compete with suburban malls; was left to the realm of the tourists. Which would make sense why Bruce Willis opened a Planet Hollywood with a concert headlined by Van Halen.

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Bruce Willis, in early 90’s jeans seen at Planet Hollywood’s groundbreaking

But Dallas, despite a robust convention crowd, has never had the tourists economy to support all those restaurants, let alone a movie theater and an entire mall.   The West End tried mightily, see: free Van Halen concerts, the Hoop-It-Up tournaments; but slowly it began to die off. The Stark Club, though a truly unique and wondrous place, failed to create much of a clustering effect of similar nightclubs or businesses. Those around the time likened it being one Ziggy Stardust amongst a thousand J.R. Ewings. The restaurants started to flee in the late 90’s. Planet Hollywood closed in 2001 as did the movie theater. And the mall finally closed its doors in 2006, with it’s most notable tenant, the antiques shop, moving to….a suburban mall, Grapevine Mills.

There’s hope of course, as I write this news has come out that the owners of the old West End Marketplace, where the mall was, are trying to rebrand the building, and court residential condos or apartment developers to convert the space.

25 Signs you grew up in Dallas in the 90’s

The following is based on questions I get about what it was like to grow up in Dallas.

1.  The Texas Giant – You remember how big of a deal it was when the Texas Giant opened. Like seriously, it was a really really big deal.

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2.  Cowboys and 49er’s – You had one friend that hated the Cowboys and loved the 49er’s. Despite how awesome the Cowboys were in the 90’s, you had one friend that just had to be different and like the 49er’s.

cowboys-49er-maxfield

Suck it 49er’s…and Keith from 9th grade for liking them

3.  The Toadies Rumor – There was that rumor at your school about the Toadies Song “Possum Kingdom” being about the lead singer sister’s death or something to that effect.

toadies

The Toadies were way more than one song from Guitar Hero

4.  Kenny “the Shark” Gant – You remember Kenny “The Shark” Gant from the Cowboys and his dances before kick offs.

KENNYGANTSHARKIt just goes to show that if you dance before kickoff and you’ll be more remembered than the starters.

5.  Penny Whistle Park – Looking back, a shed that housed a dozen carny-style amusement park-ish rides probably wasn’t that cool. But to the eight year old version of myself, it was an absolutely amazing place to have a birthday party.

penny whistle parkThat’s not a mistake, it’s just that no photo does Penny Whistle Park justice.

6.  The Black Hole at Wet ‘n’ Wild – First of all, it’s Wet’ n’ Wild, not six flags hurricane harbor splash world or whatever it is nowadays. And second, as soon as you went down the black hole at Wet ‘N’ Wild for the first time, you told everyone at school.

wet-n-wild-arlingtonUpon further review, building an entirely black water slide that soaked up the Texas sun, becoming blistering hot, might not have been the best idea.  But I’m not listening.

7.  Tatu and the Dallas Sidekicks – I can’t name a single other player on the Sidekicks, nor a single team that they played. But I know how big of a deal it was to go to a Sidekicks game and see him take his shirt off after a goal.

DSC03023No one is looking at you #15, stop waving.  Everyone is staring at Tatu’s early 90’s aura.

8Scotty’s on Park Lane – You spent days at Scotty’s on Park Lane. Before it was turned into Top Golf, that place was Scotty’s. And you probably spent countless afternoons playing miniature golf there, or in the batting cages.

scottys-golf-park-74231035If you know about Scotty’s then you know how awesome it was.  If not just trust us.

9.  Fair Day: Day off from school + free ticket to the State Fair + corny dogs and ice cream sandwiches + the pirate ship ride = best day ever.

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F.Y.I.  Whenever you decide to go to the  Fair nowadays, always always check when Fair Day is for schools.  Don’t go on those days.

10.  The West End was cool – There was that arcade in the big building’s basement, like a three floor arcade. Plus the free fudge. Also a Planet Hollywood and some other stuff. Either way, as a kid it was a cool place.

wem-081709-0+(12)Whatever happened to that Giant Cowboy boot wearing Dinosaur?

11.  Mavericks games were free– You went Dallas Mavericks games basically for free.  Winning tickets to a Mavericks game in the 90’s was essentially the same as winning a pizza party for your class in grade school. Except the Three J’s weren’t at your pizza party.

three j'sBy “Crown” they meant, not last place.

12.  1994 World Cup – You remember the 1994 World Cup and that mascot dog thing. You may not have gone to the games, but you remember all the hoopla surrounding the games played at the Cotton Bowl.

world cup 94 mascotHis name was Striker, really I looked it up.

 13.  Your Favorite Texas Rangers were Rusty Greer, Nolan Ryan, “Pudge” and Steve Booooooo-shell, in some order.

41g-xY9LfeLPretty sure this baseball card is in a box at my parent’s house.

14.  The black tar heroin in Plano – You got lectured about drugs after all those kids in Plano died of black tar heroin.  Either at school or from your parents. The kids in Plano freaked out a lot of adults.

cheeseToday’s kids use “cheese” not harder drugs like the 90’s kids.

15.  Crystal Pizza – It was like Chucky Cheese on steroids, and way awesomer. A true birthday party Mecca.

crystalspizzaIt had a “Cartoon Theater”

16.  The Coca Cola Starplex – It’s not the Gexa Energy, Livenation.com Shirmoff Vodka Musical Arts Performance Center, it’s the Coca-Cola Starplex.

mXxqMDg5ArjOEx1AshrT3TAWish I could find a better picture, but this is a ticket stub from a Hootie and the Blowfish show at the Coca-Cola Starplex.  Can’t get much more 90’s then that.

17.  Dazed and Confused or Varsity Blues – These movies had some real similarities to your high school life. Sure, one of them was set in the 70’s and the other in a small town, but other than that, they weren’t that far off.

polls_varsity_blues_3835_124721_answer_1_xlargeI don’t want your life.

18.  Deep Ellum was cool and hardcore, or so you heard– Unless you were a teenager when 1990 rolled around and were old enough to claim you went to the Nirvana Trees’ show; you, like me were probably a little too young to really experience the Deep Ellum that your older cousin talked about. But still if you were lucky enough to see a show at Trees, or even to perform in Deep Ellum during the 90’s it was a badge of honor.

1e-002-ss-07-kpask_lgI knew that place was cool before I even knew what cool meant.

19.  The 972 area code role-out – You remember when they introduced the 972 area code. Before DFW had like twelve area codes, Dallas had one: 214. And when you called your friends you didn’t need ten numbers.

 TangoTattoo

What would people get tattoo’s of if 972 was never introduced?

20.  Hoop-it-up – If you played basketball, you remember hoop-it-up. It was the pinnacle of quasi-non-organized basketball no matter what your age.

m_81Q2hD0g6SroblikhCLIQAnyone else remember the rumor that the Mavericks found Mike Izzuilno playing at Hoop-It-Up.

21.  White Rock Lake was a scary place – Before it was turned around, and became a haven for blue toothed bikers, slow runners and rowing teams; White Rock Lake was a bad place full of trash, dead bodies, and questionable men in cars cruising around.

117-rray-cycling-wrlSide Note:  If you think Oak Cliff is scary or dangerous today, twenty years ago you would have shat yourself.

22.  Town East, Redbird, and Valley View Malls – They were still decent malls, or well, they were still actually malls that were open.

TownEastMall030513Town East now advertises that they have a McDonald’s, never a good sign for a mall when it’s pimping Mickey D’s.

23.  The Dallas Times Herald –  I was too young to really read the paper when the Times Herald was around, but I do remember my father buying copies of its last edition.

1b-ashx1Biggest rule of Dallas media: no matter what’s going on, even if you’re going out of business…The Cowboys are more important.

24.  1310 the Ticket – Your dad listened to 1310 The Ticket while driving you around. I didn’t become a P1 until I was like 25 or 26, but my father like most fathers in Dallas was a day one P1.

Ktck11Do you like your gig?

25.  Mr. Peppermint and his musical son.  Mr. Peppermint was part of your childhood. So as a teenager your mind was blown when you found out that his kid was one of the Butthole Surfer guys.

mr_peppermint-630x329Side note, apparently Jerry Haynes, the guy who played Mr. peppermint, like to curse like a sailor when he was off camera and around adult guest stars just to get a reaction out of them

Tracking down the Oldest Bar in Dallas

What’s the oldest bar in Dallas?  AH

To begin with, booze and bars have always been big in Dallas.  The very first store in Dallas in the 1840’s sold nothing but fabric for clothes and whiskey.  Early Dallas was a frontier town with saloons like Dick Flanginan’s (featuring boxing every Tuesday) all along north Main Street and dance halls to the southwest.  Dallas even had its own opium’s den in downtown, The Black Elephant run by Charlie Chunn.  An account of Dallas in the 1890’s said that it had, “a nice lemonade stand, an ice cream parlor, and three hundred saloons.”

One of these

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Three hundred of these

saloon

But the oldest bar, well got to admit it, this isn’t the easiest question to answer.  And in fact I don’t have a simple “this is the oldest bar in Dallas” answer below.  There are questions as to what constitutes a bar. Is a fancy restaurant that serves food and booze a bar?  How about a place with live music and booze?  Furthermore, when do you mark the beginning of a bar’s existence?  If either ownership or the operators change, is it still the same?  What if it moves but keeps the same concept, employees and ownership?  I don’t have the answers to those questions, rather I have several contenders below which you yourself and make the determination about the oldest bar in Dallas.

Ships

Let’s begin with an example of how complicated defining a bar and it’s beginning is .  Consider The Loon on McKinney.  The Loon itself has been around for almost thirty years in the same place, under the same ownership, with the same concept, which is quite old for Dallas nightlife.

 

The-Loon

The Loon

But before it was known as the Loon, it was operated under different ownership and known as Joe Miller’s.  Before that it was operated as the Villager Club a cool jazz club in the 1960’s.  Further complicating the matter is the fact that The Loon itself will soon be moving (if it hasn’t already) to make way for some CVS or bank or parking lot.  The march of progress is a common reason for older bars in Dallas not being around.  Anyways, when The Loon reopens at a different location, which date does one consider its beginning?  The current 2014 date, the 1985 date when Joe Miller’s widow sold the place, or even further back to its 60’s roots as a jazz club.  Convoluted right?  Okay let’s try a less complicated example.

Ship’s Lounge on Lowest Greenville.  Ship’s started  slinging beer and wine 61 years ago, and hasn’t changed much since then.  It’s in the same location, with the same concept, with stable ownership, and in some cases bar stools from when it opened.

ship's

Ship’s the same since ’53.

Putting a beginning date on Ship’s is easy, but going back before ’53 it gets complicated again.

Club Schmitz is just as old as Ship’s Lounge, perhaps even older.  Schmitz on Old Denton Drive in northwest Dallas has been serving beer in the same spot since 1946 when German brothers started a bar in an old farmhouse.

club shmitz

Present day Club Schmitz

But that farmhouse burned down and the German brothers had to rebuild Club Schmitz in 1953.  They rebuilt in the same location but managed to contuinely operate their bar as the brothers sold beer out of coolers to patrons who leisurely drank beneath the trees in the shade.  The same family still owns Club Schmitz and hardly a thing has changed in the past 60 years.

ClubSchmitz-920x444

Yesteryear Club Schmitz.  As you can tell not much as changed

If you’re a not inclined to give Club Schmitz those years before there “new” building was built, then you might consider The Longhorn Ballroom on Industrial.  The Longhorn was built in 1950 by eccentric millionaire O.L. Nelms for his friend Bob Wills.  Bob Wills and his band the Texas Playboys played a lot of early shows at the Longhorn, which is more of a dance hall/honky tonk/punk rock showcase/professional wrestling venue, then a traditional ballroom dancing…ballroom.  Greats like Elvis, James Brown, Otis Reading and The Sex Pistols have all played the Longhorn.   The Pistols show produced this famous quote from Noel Monk’s book, 12 Days on the Road: The Sex Pistols and America. “Sid Vicious’s face is smeared with blood. Not all of it his. The Sex Pistols have hit Texas, and Texas has hit back.”

Also this famous picture.

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The Longhorn Ballroom has been though more than a dozen owners and operates in the past 6 decades. Hell, Jack Ruby even ran it for a while.  And to consider it operating continuously since 1950 is a stretch.

Going further back before 1950 or 1946 and finding pre-war places that are in old buildings with owners and operates that have ties to the originals, and have managed to stay up and running while also staying true their alcohol propitiating ancestors is even more difficult.  The older dance halls and music venues like Lu Ann’s or The Aragon Ballroom are long gone.  The bars and saloons have been bulldozed over like the Loon or Dick Flanigan’s (The Wilson Building circa 1904 now sits where Flangian’s used to be).  And trying to find pre-prohibition places is incredibly tough, because you have to find places that survived by not selling booze while still serving booze but still not “serving” booze.

Beer? What beer?  Oh you mean root beer, yes this is all root beer.

rootbeer

 

One place that has stood the test of time is the Adolphus Hotel in Downtown Dallas.  The Adolphus Hotel opened up in 1912 and the restaurant/bar followed in 1916. Originally named the Bambooland Room it was one of the classiest restaurants in town.

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Not what you pictured when you thought of “oldest Bar in Dallas”

The restaurant, now known has the French Room has remained classy, while the bar, now known as “Walt Garrison’s Rodeo Bar” has been developed as cowboy chic for tourists.  The place has had its up and downs, there have been revamps, re-launches including sponsoring an on premises Ice-capades style show for 15 years, so it could be easy to question whether the Adolphus ‘s restaurant and bar are the oldest in Dallas.  However if you can afford having a glass of wine in the French Room, you can make a claim that people have been sitting there drinking wine in the same place, in much the same fashion, for almost 100 years.  And as far as Prohibition goes, well, Nochi Thompson from Boardwalk Empire will tell you  that as the classiest hotel and restaurant in Dallas, you had to have a way of getting your guests booze.  After all, the Adolphus was built by the heir to the Anheuser-Busch beer brewing empire, Adolphus Busch pictured below.

busch

The man responible for Busch Light

One last contender I’ll throw out there comes from a social organization.  Dallas has had a lot of social organizations throughout our history, including Masonic lodges, VFW’s, Kiwanis clubs, Knights of Columbus, The Bonehead Luncheon Club, debutante clubs like the Idlewild and even country clubs. As for the oldest bar, I’m going to single out one, the Sons of Hermann.

sons of hermann

Outside of Sons

The Sons of Hermann is a fraternal organization of mainly German-Americans who founded a lodge in Dallas in 1890.  Two decades later in 1911, the four Dallas area lodges pooled their resources together and built a joint Hall for brotherhood, camaraderie, and because their country invented Oktoberfest, for drinking beer.  The building itself hasn’t changed much the past 103 years; it’s still a place for people to gather together to eat, drink, and be merry.  What has changed is how the Sons’ have operated it.  Years ago you had to be a member or a member’s guest to enjoy Sons,  today anybody can walk on in and have a beer at the bar.

HermannHallEXTRA3

Welcome ya’ll

So there’s that little kink, but other than that the place has remained pretty much the same.  As for the Prohibition problem, well, it wasn’t illegal to brew beer for your own “personal” use.  So if a few Sons (what the members are called) brewed a few gallons every month and brought it down to the beer hall they built to “share” with their friends and their friend’s friends, so be it.

Why Texas-OU is the biggest game in the State and biggest party in the City

Why is Texas-OU such a big thing in Dallas, – co-worker from Kansas

college-football-24

Because it’s about America, and football, and Texas and Liberty…wait let me start over.

First you got to understand that the football game and the celebration of the football game are different, but are intertwined so much that they’re almost the same.  And both are big, big deals in Texas, Oklahoma, and Dallas.  Hundreds of thousands people come to town for the game, which includes two teams that have played for half of the national championships in the past 12 years.  20 million in revenue is generated because of the weekend, during which more beer in Dallas is consumed then any other weekend.  So let me explain why it’s so big.

The game, well it’s an old tradition, like really old.  The first game happened before Oklahoma was a state, the Longhorns weren’t even called the Longhorns, they were called the Varsity.  Oklahoma looked like this when they started playing.

1934TexasOU

Throughout the history of the game, both teams have been consistently good, sometimes scary good.  Since World War II at least one of the two teams have been ranked in the top 25 an astounding 65 out 67 times, and in the top ten 48 times.  The two teams have combined to win a national champion once every seven years.  And though Oklahoma’s been arguably more successful nationally, Texas leads the series 59-43.

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Their success has led them to becoming the top programs in their respective states.  Sorry A&M, two years of Johnny Football doesn’t make up for a century of playin second fiddle in the state, (though I should note that they’d be a strong first fiddle in 40 of the other 49 states in the union).

Man too stupid to use hat

Sorry Aggies

As marquee the most successful programs in the area, they’ve naturally become each other’s biggest rivals.  Again, some in Aggie land will remark its A&M that’s Texas’s biggest rival, but I’ll let hall of fame coach Darrell Royal answer that question.

“That game – the rivalry game for us has always been Oklahoma. The A&M game’s been a great game and all of that. And we may play ’em. But it’s not something that we have to do. I think the Oklahoma game is something we have to do.”

ncf_royal_nixon_d1_600

Here’s the coach Royal getting what I’m sure is a “Three Legged Race Award Plaque”

In case you didn’t catch what he’s saying, it’s that, for seventy years, Texas didn’t have to play Oklahoma but they wanted.  They had to play A&M for decades for conference reasons.  Once the two teams didn’t have to play each other last year, they stopped.

For Oklahoma, their best in state rival is the Bedlam game against Ok State.  Which Oklahoma has won 80% of and once went on a 43-3 streak.  So yeah, not really a fair matchup.  Nebraska might have been a good example, but much like the Texas-Texas A&M game, once the two teams stopped having to play each other for conference reasons in 1996, they stopped playing each other regularly.

But what makes this game even more meaningful, what turns it from a big rivalry game into an cultural event, a day circled on thousands of calendars, is the unique venue, the surroundings, the atmosphere, in short the party, the celebration that surrounds the games.

utexas_480_271_c1_c_t_0_0What comes before Part B…

So let’s talk about that party.  Why is it so big.  Well first, as I’ve said, the game’s a big deal, but it’s also at a neutral site.  Which means for the college kids it combines both aspects of a drunken tailgating home game, and s-faced road tripping away games.    As crazy as the kids from Norman and Austin are nowadays they used to be worst.  Columnist A.C. Green used to say that in the 70’s, you couldn’t walk across the intersection of Commerce and Akrad (where the two largest hotels in Dallas were) because there was six inches of glass in the streets from all the beer bottles and broken windows.  It was all in good fun, I mean there were arrests but usually only for drunk and disorderly or criminal mischief for throwing a flaming mattress out a hotel window.  Another writer put it like this “…the Friday night before the annual Texas-OU game is a night that Dallas must brace for all year long.”

7335540_87They are completely sober….really.

But it’s not just the kids from UT or OU that make it a crazy party.  It’s their friends too.  Every 17-25 year old that doesn’t attend OU or Texas has a friend or cousin or significant other that did.  So they come out and party too.

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An OU girl, her friend, a Texas girl, and her two cousins.  All are welcome

Their 41 year old uncle that attended UT law school parties too.  There’s a famous story, like a hallmark story in sports journalism, that encompasses the game and the weekend.    Written by Dan Jenkins for Sports Illustrated, Jenkins wrote of a party he and two forty something bankers (and Texas alumni) attended that included “…Texas fans, Oklahoma fans, Dallas Cowboy fans, Dallas Cowboys, bartenders, musicians, entertainers from the city’s private clubs” (Jenkins code for strippers). And If you trace just the amount of alcohol that Jenkins mentioned in his story that these two guys drank, it’d make the Mad Men cringe.

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What all this party us partying?

mad_men_food3-500x380

Oh yeah, okay carry on

In fact it was the result of another alumni, David Harold Byrd, that locals in Dallas used to know that the party had started.  Byrd was a big booster of the university, the football team and in particular the band.  So whenever the band arrived in Dallas the Friday before the game, it would march through the streets of downtown, on a Friday afternoon, to Byrd’s office on Ross Ave for an impromptu show.  Once you heard the sound of the band in downtown, you stopped working and starting drinking.  Byrd would help the town out with this whole heavy drinking by throwing an open party at his home with 50 cases of liquor.  That’s right I said 50 cases and I said liquor, 500 bottles of hard booze.

liquor-gallery2Bascially he had a liqour store at his house

At his party he served beef, pork, deer, elk, buffalo, zebra, camel, and more.  He also has a mountain range in Antarctica named after him.

alexander-island-mountains-clouds-antarctica-120131-02

Do you have a mountain range named after you?  No, then you can’t come to my 500 liquor bottle party.  J/K here have a zebra burger.

So you take all that, the importance of the game, it’s history, the throngs of drunk college kids, their friends and the alumni and put it in a city that knows a little about partying, at an event like the Fair, which knows in particular how to party and entertain people. ..And you get a wild crazy party like atmosphere around a huge game.

imagesCAK31GVL

If you can’t decide who to root for, go for both, and then get really really drunk.

The party’s died down a little in recent years particularly when one team has a few down years in a row, And the St. Patty’s Day Parade is slowing challenging Texas-OU for the city’s biggest annual party, but Texas-OU is still king among the annual partying event in Dallas

How the State Fair of Texas in Dallas became the largest annual Fair in the World

How did the State of Texas get so big?  Why is in even in Dallas? –  GD

It does seem odd that something like a Fair which is so closely associated with all things rural is held in the Texas City that views itself as the state’s most cosmopolitan city.  And that the largest annual Fair in the World is held in the City that also has the World’s largest Arts District.  But the State Fair of Texas(simply known as the Fair to locals) is study on contrasts.

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Called Secular Cathedral of Texas the Hall State Building is one of the nation’s best examples of art-deco architecture in the nation

texas-state-fair-fried

Also fried food

  • It is home to perhaps the largest collection of fried foods in the world, but also one of the largest collections of architecturally significant art-deco buildings in the world.
  • More prize winning livestock is sold at the Fair then anywhere in nation, but there also have been  years when famous New York City art galleries sell more art at the Fair than they do the entire year at the NYC galleries.
  • John Deere will sell as many tractors at the Fair as Subaru will sell earth conscience eco-friendly yuppie movers.
  • There are arguably more “carnies” per square foot on the fairgrounds then anywhere, but also three straight weeks of sold-out Broadway musicals and operas running throughout the Fair.
  • The Fair hosts the state’s most important and one of the nation’s biggest football games, but the Fair grounds are also home to the state’s first organic botanical gardens.

But let’s get to the Fair’s history, why it’s held in Dallas and why it’s so massive.

The first “State” Fair in Dallas was held in 1886 when a group of Dallas business leaders came together to put on the “Texas State Fair and Dallas Exposition.”  It was held on land owned by good old Colonel Gaston (Gaston Ave.) on the present day Fair grounds in South Dallas.  A rival Fair was held in North Dallas that same year, but the two fairs merged shortly thereafter.

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You’ll see later on why the woman are featured on this ad

Dallas because of its banking community and location on two major rail lines was well suited in the late 19th century to act as a showcase and clearing house for livestock and produce.  The City, because of large mercantile class and influx of European craftsmen from the La Reunion settlement was also well suited to be a marketplace for the latest consumer goods.  Both are big reasons why the early Fair in Dallas thrived.

But a big reason, perhaps the biggest reason that the State Fair in Dallas went from being a state fair to The State Fair, was that the early backers of the Fair released that providing entertainment and attractions for all walks of people was paramount to the Fair being successful.  The early backers of the Fair brought in family friendly events like hot air balloon demonstrations, they brought in wholesome all American speakers like uber-wholesome William Jennings Bryan.

W_j_-Bryan-Cross-Of-Gold-Painting-e1325306097592When people draw you bearing crosses, you know you’re wholesome

For those looking for high culture they had concerts the likes of John Philip Sousa.  (Note: I don’t mean concerts featuring the music of John Phillip Sousa; I mean concerts featuring the actual man John Phillip Sousa.)  But while the rancher may enjoy the musings of WJB, and his kids marvel at the hot air balloons while his wife enjoys the music of JPS, the ranch hands that helped get the prized heifer to Fair, the one who was just paid a month’s worth of pay after selling that cow, yeah he’s not looking for sweet wholesome highbrow stuff.  And though horse racing and gambling were big early attractions of the Fair (both were legal), it’s another big entertainment option that’s perhaps a better story.

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These guys aren’t entertained by balloons and marches.

There is a story relayed from author and Times Herald columnist John Rogers that dates from the 1890’s about one of the biggest backers and promoters of the State Fair, banker and real estate developer, J.S. Armstrong.  A woman came into Armstrong’s bank seeking a loan.  She meets with a young morally chaste loan officer, who promptly took her request for a $5,000 loan to cover additional labor to Armstrong for denial.  Or so he thought.   When Armstrong asked his loan officer what line of work she was involved in, the loan officer said that she was a madam in one of Dallas leading brothels (prostitutions was legal in Dallas till 1913).  Armstrong then asked when she would need the money and the young loan officer, aware of his boss’s involvement with the Fair, sheepishly replied that she needed it for the duration of the Fair.  Armstrong immediately signed off on the loan and seeing the shock on his young new employee’s face, told him it was merely a business decision.  And her line of work did good business during the Fair.  Armstrong was right, and as the story goes, she paid him back in full.

2939354578_5ba3d72274See what  I mean

All of this helped turn a state fair in Dallas to the Texas State Fair by the turn of the century.  By 1905, more than 300,000 people attended the Fair.  In 1909, President Taft visited the Fair.  Two years later, President Wilson did.  The Fair continued to evolve in its first 50 years.  To court the highbrow crowd the Fair built the beautiful Fair Park Music Hall as an opera and concert venue in 1925.  When it became apparent that saddle makers and carriage  builders were being left behind in the wake of cars, the Fair started hosting its annual Auto Show, which is still so popular that the big three American companies (Chevy, Ford and Dodge) routinely roll out their new model year trucks at the Fair.  When the state moved to outlaw both gambling and prostitution, the Fair replaced those attractions with others.  Car racing became a big draw, not to mention a major plot in the 1962 movie about the State Fair of Texas called State Fair, staring Pat Boone and Ann Margaret.  The Fair built amusement park rides, including the largest Ferris Wheel in North America and installed a 50 foot tall Texan, named Big Tex for people to sacrfice their babies to and for the X-Men to battle around.

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I quote from the comic “Emergency – All X-Men to the Cotton Bowl”

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Please god of Texas, accept our sacrfice, don’t destory yourself in fire again

Football also became big.  Texas-OU first played their annual Red-River Rivalry Game on the Fairgrounds in 1929 and moved to the Cotton Bowl in 1934.  The game and the weekend is worth a post in of itself, but more beer is consumed that weekend in Dallas than any other, and during the game in 1968, the Fairgrounds swelled with more than 380,000 people making those 277 acres temporarily the 32nd largest city in the nation.

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Texas-OU is the most entertaing day to go to the Fair.

But perhaps the one event that helped establish the Fair in Dallas as an annual celebration of all things Texas was the 1936 Texas Centennial Exhibition.  The Exhibition was an event designed to be a massive celebration of the 100 birthday of Texas.  It was courted by R.L. Thornton and held in Dallas rather than San Antonio or Houston almost solely based on his salesmanship of Dallas and the Fairgrounds (The joke in Texas goes, they started the war in San Anton, finished it in Houston, and held the party in Dallas).  Planned and held during the great depression, it benefited from the numerous federal works projects.  Most of the iconic buildings, art deco mural and statures in Fair Park where built, designed or commissioned  through the WPA, the CCC  or other Great Depression era work programs.  The building and art programs, along with the Exhibitions was such a success that President Roosevelt showed up along with more than 6 million other visitors.

girls498Most came for the exhibits on new farming methods

Without much of those buildings, the Texas State Fair would have likely hoped around from city to city, showcasing different cities in the State.  Luckily it stayed, and continues to thrive.  Texas, despite increasing urbanization, still has more land dedicated to livestock and agricultural production than any other state.  So there are still plenty of farmers and ranchers who head into to town to show off their prized bulls and sell them to the highest bidder.  Dallas also still maintains its reputation as a leading marketplace for the newest and best consumer goods.  And the Fair still provides expansive entertainment options, whether it be highbrow (the musical this year I believe is the Lion Kong), wholesome (last year an entire museum’s exhibits were dedicated to the Girls Scouts) or rambunctious (take your pick from the midway games, to the rides, to the Texas-OU game and two more football games at the Cotton bowl).

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You show your livestock

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Admire the latest trucks

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And for the Texas-OU game

It’s difficult to explain the State Fair of Texas.  That annual three week tradition held in early September and late October at historical Fair Park in South Dallas. The collection of people and cultures is as unique as anywhere in the world.  In fact, I would say that nowhere in world will you find as diverse mix of people located within the same 277 acres.  It’s a rural, urban, white, ethnic, rich, poor, high-brow, folk culture, football crazy, opera watching mass of humanity for three weeks in the early fall.

Where are the urban, diverse, progressive DIY-ers, neighborhoods in Dallas, Or does all of Dallas feel like North Dallas

What neighborhoods are the urban, diverse, progressive DIY-ers, neighborhoods?  Or are all neighborhoods like North Dallas or Plano? – R.A.

No, R.A. not all neighborhoods in Dallas are like North Dallas or Plano.  And by North Dallas she (a friend from high school who lived in North Dallas from when she was 12 till she left for college and moved to California) meant a neighborhood that has a certain sameness feel to them, the same houses, same people, same cars, same yards, etc.  Those newly minted (relatively), conservative, suburban, cookie-cutter type powerful HOA neighborhoods that lack a certain cultural and historical depth that more urban neighborhoods have.

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Most unique thing about this neighborhood is the Water Tower, which I would totally live in

In fairness, those progressive urban neighborhoods have questions about crime, schools, congestion, maintenance issues with older houses, etc.  And in the end it’s a matter of personal preference, valuing different amenities differently.  Not here to judge just answer questions.  And her questions was where she could move to, if she were to move back from the west coast and looking for a neighborhood decidedly not North Dallas like.

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She wanted to go to there

Though Dallas has always had people that value the North Dallases, Highland Parks, Preston Hollows, and Plano neighborhoods, Dallas has also had those that value more unique places.  Even from the beginning when a significant part of early Dallas settlers were Europeans artists (including a former director of the Paris Opera) from a failed utopian settlement on the banks of the Trinity.  That bohemian lifestyle can still be seen in things like the Hollywood Height Halloween parade.

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This type of parade does not happen in Plano, both Hollywood Heights and Plano are proud of this fact.

It takes that certain artistic or bohemian lifestyle to be the firsts to move into these urban neighborhoods before they’ve turned around.  And of course once that bohemian community is established in the neighborhood, it’s that community that helps to make the neighborhood attractive to so called urban pioneers, people in search of authentic unique neighborhoods.

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Note these people are often called, hippies, hipsters, the creative class, urbanites and more.

What are some of the characteristics of these neighborhoods? They’re older neighborhoods (in Dallas that means pre-WWII), that were built mainly for middle class families (read quality construction) in nice but not super nice locations and lots (if they were really nice they’d be torn down and replaced with McMansions in the past 20 years).  They experienced some decline and decay throughout the second and third generation of owners and became less desirable.  But because of their architectural significant design, quality construction and proximity to urban amenities, they have attracted certain urban pioneers.  The process is organic, not created by large scale developments or initiatives, and often coincides with a entertainment district.

There are really two great areas of Dallas that fit this mold, a few more that are kinda but not quite, a few that have gentrified to a point beyond being affordable, and a few that may one day become one.

Note:  The list below is not all inclusive, there may be neighborhoods that I left out which are in fact these progressive, DIY-er urban pioneering neighborhoods.

Two Best Areas

The Old East Dallas Neighborhoods – Loosely bordered by Columbia, Peak, Ross and La Vista (again loosely).  It includes neighborhoods like Junius Heights, Munger Place, and Hollywood Heights where the homes date from turn of the century through the 30’s.  The revival started 40 years ago so there’s an established community of urban pioneers there.  Questions about schools, safety and crime have kept it reasonably affordable, but high property values in some neighborhoods in the past 10-15 years have seen defections to other more affordable more bohemian neighborhoods.

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Old East Dallas home on Tremont

North Oak Cliff– which speaking of those other neighborhoods, you have North Oak Cliff.  The renaissance in North Oak Cliff started some 15 or 20 years ago and has coincided with Bishop Art’s success.  Originally developed by J.S. Armstrong (fresh off developing Hollywood California, and just before developing Highland Park in Dallas) the homes are turn of the century through the 1920’s.  Winnetka Heights is the flagship neighborhood for North Oak Cliff, though there are other promising neighborhoods on the other side of the Trinity and west of 35.  The revival of North Oak Cliff is still a work in progress and it’s not for the faint of heart (safety issues, schools, the normal stuff urban neighborhoods deal with).  But it’s the best neighborhood in Dallas for that diverse (very diverse), eclectic-affordable-bohemian feel.  And it’s years away from property values reaching a place where the neighborhood stops being affordable.

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North Oak Cliff home on Clinton

Best of the Rest

Little Forest Hills – LFH was originally developed as lake cottages and hunting cabins just off of White Rock Lake in the 1910’s.  Little Forest Hills (a namesake taken from the more affluent neighborhood to the west, Forest Hills) is a collection of mainly 30’s and 40’s homes south of White Rock Lake, east of Lakeland, north of the train tracks and west of Casa Linda.  Unlike the two previous neighborhoods which were a part of a large quasi-blighted area, Funky Little Forest Hills became bohemians because it was the most affordable neighborhood (mainly because of small house size) in a nice area (the greater White Rock Lake area ofLakewood, Lakewood Heights, Old Lake Highlands, and Forest Hills).  Because there were always larger, more expensive or more modern homes surrounding LFH the renters, artists, or those with a bohemian lifestyle who wanted the lake as an amenity found their way  to LFH.   As such a large population of artists moved into the neighborhood in the 80’s and 90’s.  The neighborhood still remains one of the more affordable neighborhoods around White Rock, but the neighborhood has seen recent property value increase as professionals expand the original lake cottages or pay for a previous generations unique artistic additions.

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Little Forest Hills Motto

Quasi-Neighborhoods, Ones that aren’t quite but almost.  The professionals outnumber the bohemians and artists, or the white people outnumber the nonwhite people.

Lakewood Heights/C-streets – Across the street from Lakewood, just northeast of Old East Dallas and south of the Lakewood Country Club, this neighborhood has homes that date from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.  Quality schools and nice location have meant that the neighborhood never bottomed out like Old East Dallas or North Oak Cliff.  So the artists never really moved in, but those who wanted to be close to the artists in Old East Dallas, and wanted to feel a little safer did.   With the closing of Far West nightclub and the opening of a high end grocery store across the street, the neighborhood is perhaps destined to price itself out of affordability.  The McMansions are already moving in.

Old Lake Highlands – perhaps the best example of mid-century modern homes in Dallas that are still somewhat affordable, the neighborhood is a triangle formed by Buckner, Northwest HWY and Lake Highlands Dr.  Mainly homes built in the 50’s with a few late 40’s and early 60’s sprinkled in, you can still find a few original owners there.  Like Lakewood Heights, OLH never bottomed out, but unlike Lakewood Heights it’s never been as expensive.  As such a certain creative class of urban pioneers, ones that favor the mid-century look, have moved into OLH in the past few years.  If home values remain relatively affordable here, the next ten years may see an influx of more and more quasi-bohemians and perhaps some actual artists forming an electric community there.

Used to be

The M-Streets – The neighborhood  most associated Lower Greenville was once  (in the early to mid 90’s) one of the best places in Dallas to live. Bounded by Richmond/Belmont, Abrams, Mockingbird and Central, it’s a loosely defined area made up of a few neighborhoods that run along Greenville Ave.  In the early to mid 90’s, Dallas’s live music scene was migrating from Deep Elbum to places on Lower Greenville like the Granada or Poor David’s.  EDM clubs like the Zubar or the Red Jacket were just hitting their stride.  Restaurants like the original Snuffer’s, Aww Shucks, Blue Goose and Terilli’s were blossoming.  The homes, most dating from the 20’s, 30’s and into the 40’s were affordable.  Old Tudor duplexes and apartments in the south end of the neighborhood kept the prices down.  But soon the duplexes on oversized lots were torn down and replaced with 4,000 SF McMansions.  New homeowners, mainly wealth professionals with families drawn to the neighborhood by the lifestyle and one of the few blue ribbon schools in DISD, began clamoring for a cleaner version of Greenville Ave.  As more and more homes got torn down, as $500,000 homes became the norm on the street instead of the outlier, the M-streets lost its affordability and diversity.

Oak Lawn – The original neighborhood for Urban pioneers of the 50’s and 60’s during white flight.  Known for decades as having an artistic-bohemian scene, since the days of the Alice Street Fair for wondering artists in the late 19th century off Cedar Springs.  Rising land values beginning in the 80’s forced many of the homes to be torn down and replaced with office buildings, apartments and high rises.

Might be One Day

Claremont – It’s an affordable 1960’s neighborhood of not quite mid-century not quite ranch style homes south of Ferguson, along St. Francis north of 30.  If style preferences continue to evolve like they have been, then neighborhoods like Claremont are the next step for the quasi-bohemian individuals.

Park Row – 50 years ago Old East Dallas was in shambles, 30 years ago North Oak Cliff was.  But they had good bones.  This is where Park Row currently is.  South of Fair Park and the South Dallas neighborhood and north of the Great Trinity Forest, it used to be one of the best neighborhood in Dallas, but highways, segregation, and a number of other factors have led to the neighborhood becoming rundown.  Nevertheless these 4,000 SF, 1920s mansion like the one below are available for less then 175,000.   Other smaller properties are far cheaper.

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Why the DART doesn’t go where I want to go, What you can do about it, and the story of the extensive mass transit system Dallas used to have.

Why doesn’t the DART go to places I want to go? – Hipster at the FOE, a nondescript pool

DART Legos

Note:  Not an actual DART Train

I assume he’s talking about the trains, because DART’s bus network is pretty extensive and could take him most everywhere in the DART service area, but that’s a different point.

DART Parade Bus

No, not this bus you hipster

As far as the trains go, (light rail, trolley, and commuter) it actually turns out we used to have a really great mass transit system in Dallas based around the trains and trolleys.  Most cities did.  But unlike New York, London, or Chicago; Dallas tore apart its mass transit system starting in the 1940’s and had pretty much eliminated it by the 1960’s.  So without that bases of a system, when Dallas started redeveloping a mass transit system in the 1980’s, it had to start from scratch, well almost scratch.

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Mass transit in Dallas in the early 80’s before DART consisted of these “Hop-A-Bus” bunny like buses, no I’m not kidding

I mean think if we had torn down all the highways in the 60’s and just started to rebuild them in the 80’s.  It’d take years and hundreds of billions to build them all back, but I’m getting away from the question of why DART doesn’t go where you want to.

In Dallas years ago, mainly around the 20’s and the 30’s, there was a mass transit network that could have taken that hipster to pretty much anywhere he wanted to go.   The system was comprised of streetcars and so called Interurban rail lines.

Street-Cars

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Not Street Cars

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Street cars were for getting around in the city.  If you just got off your shift at the Dr. Pepper Plant at Mockingbird and Greenville and wanted to stop by a dance hall down onLowest Greenville (Greenville and Ross), it was a thirty minute walk or a 5 minute street car ride.  The Interurban Lines on ther other hand where for getting between different cities.  Say if you lived in McKinney and wanted to visit family living in Dallas, you could take the Interurban in to a Dallas stop and have your family meet you there.

And by the 1930’s Dallas had hundreds of miles of those street car lines including ones down Main, Commerce, Ervay , Gaston, Ross, many more streets.  There was even lines headed over the Trinity to Oak Cliff (which had over twenty miles of street car lines itself.)  The street car network provided ample ability to pretty much to get around anywhere in the urbanized part of Dallas County without a car.

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Early Street Car map of Dallas and Oak Cliff

The Interurban would have taken you around the area to smaller farming communities or early suburbs.  Like the Interurban that ran north to Highland Park, then to Preston Hallow, or the one that ran through Richardson, Plano, McKinney along a route that would be mimicked by Highway 5 slightly to west.  It was in fact the largest Interurban system in the nation with more then 200 miles of track.

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Dallas Interurban Map showing the stops

So what happened?  Well, cars got cheaper, and then the government began to heavily subsidize the construction of roads, highways, or other auto-centric projects.  The mass transit systems in Dallas, the street cars and interurban, were private companies, which meant that with cars being cheaper and government funding auto travel, they couldn’t compete and closed.  The interurban closed down after WWII when the Interstates and Highways became popular, and the streetcars went away in the 60’s when Goss on Ross would give you a car for $50 down.

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“SE HABLE ESP”  Spanish for “My sign guy doesn’t know Spanish”

So in the early 80’s when DART was started, it had no base system to build off of, and it will take a while to build that system back up.  Perfect example, in New York, the same subway lines have been operating for over a 100 years.  In Dallas there was a street car line that ran across the Trinity connecting Downtown Dallas and North Oak Cliff as early as 1887.  That line was shut down more then half a century ago, and it’s taken DART (and others) more then thirty years to re-open that line.  That’s one street car line.  It’s gonna take time.

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Thirty years to get here

So that’s it, the reason why DART can’t take you from Louie’s on Henderson to Chicken Scratch in Bishop Arts.  DART has had to rebuild a century of mass transit, and it doesn’t happen over night.  But If you’re really that upset by it, do what they did in Oak Cliff.  That re-opened streetcar was not purposed by DART, the City or the County.  No, instead four guys wrote a proposal themselves to Federal Government asking for funding for the project.  They got tens of millions a few short years ago for the project.  Since then DART and City have since taken the project and run with it.  Contact Them here if you’re interested…